SPAGHETTI WITH CHARD, CHILES, AND ANCHOVIES - p. 18
Nigella gives some suggestions in the lengthy headnote to this recipe for making it vegan, but I felt I could do better. To that end, I came up with a vegan “anchovy paste”. It consists of oil-cured black olives, miso, sun-dried tomatoes, porcini powder, capers with some of their brine, and kelp granules. This was blended in the food processor attachment of my stick blender with just enough water (a couple Tbs) for it to come together as a paste. Given the salt content, I would expect this to last close to forever in the fridge, which is good because I made far more than I needed for this dish. I substituted about a teaspoon of this paste per anchovy called for, and made the recipe as directed from there. You heat the anchovies in some olive oil, and mash them up to get them to break up into the oil. You add garlic and red pepper flakes, sauté briefly, then add chard stalks. Sauté a bit longer than add a bit of water. Cover and let simmer until the stalks are tender. While your pasta is boiling, add the sliced chard leaves to the stalks, and cook until they are wilted. You then add the cooked pasta to this mixture and toss to distribute the sauce. You work some grated parm into the spaghetti, then add more to serve.
Since this dish was nutritionally light, especially with gluten-free spaghetti, I also made the spiced chickpeas from Crossroads, by Tal Ronnen. Cooked chickpeas are roasted with cumin and chile, then sautéed with shallot, garlic, marinara, lemon juice, and sherry. These are delicious. I kept them separate for the photo, so you could see the Nigella dish in it’s original form, the but the chickpeas were served on top of the pasta. They really made the dish.
Overall, the pasta dish was good, and the anchovy paste worked beyond expectations. It really tasted anchovy-y, thanks to the kelp. But the dish on it’s own is not something I’d likely seek to make again. I might make it with another green, such as arugula, mustard, or sorrel. I think a spicier green would be better than chard. And I would definitely add the spiced chickpeas again, or just roasted chickpeas without the saucing step. The “anchovy paste” is a winner that will have all kinds of applications.